Hoffenheim vs Freiburg preview:
Champions League quest continues for Freiburg
By Ben Sully @SullyBen
Freiburg will be aiming to continue their push for a top-four spot on Saturday when they come up against a Hoffenheim side who are experiencing a poor run of form.
Hoffenheim's European aspirations have been dented in recent weeks, with Die Kraichgauer winless in their last six matches.
The hosts enter Saturday's contest off the back of consecutive draws after they were unable to get the better of Greuther Fürth, who held Hoffenheim to a goalless draw, while last week they snatched a point in their encounter with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Evan Ndicka's unfortunate own goal gave Hoffenheim the lead, but the 22-year-old quickly made amends, as he netted at the right end of the pitch to restore parity before the break. Daichi Kamada looked to have set his team on course to all three points, when he struck in the 65th minute, but Georginio Rutter equalised for Hoffenheim to ensure the spoils were shared.
Despite their recent run of poor form, Die Kraichgauer could still qualify for Europe, with seventh place expected to become a Europa Conference League spot. The hosts currently occupy eighth position, but they sit just three points adrift of seventh-placed FC Köln.
Although with games against Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach still to come after the Freiburg contest, Sebastian Hoeneß will be aware that his side are up against it if they are to qualify for European competition.
Hoeneß has stated that Florian Grillitsch is ruled out of Saturday's encounter. Grillitsch is just one of a number of injury absentees, with Dennis Geiger, Håvard Nordtveit, Chris Richards, Benjamin Hübner and Ermin Bicakcic all sidelined due to injury issues. Hoffenheim are also without the services of Stefan Posch, who will serve a one-match suspension for an accumulation of yellow cards.
Freiburg are still in the hunt for a Champions League place, despite being held to a draw by Gladbach last weekend in the most dramatic of circumstances. Freiburg got off to the worst possible start, with Gladbach racing into a two-goal lead thanks to goals from Ramy Bensebaïni and Breel Embolo.
However, a much improved Freiburg side emerged from the half time break, and they quickly changed the complexion of the encounter. Vincenzo Grifo struck from the spot to halve the deficit, and parity was restored when Christian Günter found the net. Chrisitan Streich's side thought they had clinched all three points when Philipp Lienhart gave them the lead, but there was to be more drama as Lars Stindl headed home to snatch a point for Gladbach.
Despite dropping two points last weekend, fifth-placed Freiburg are just two points adrift of the top four with three games left to play.
Having lost just once in their last 10 league games, the Breisgau-Brasilianer will be confident of picking up a positive result. However, they will be aware that to give themselves the best chance of finishing in the top four then they will most likely have to win their last three remaining matches.
Although they lost 2-1 in the reverse fixture, Freiburg have already won at the PreZero Arena this season. In January, they thrashed Hoffenheim 4-1 in the DFB-Pokal, and a similar result on Saturday would certainly prolong Freiburg's Champions League push.
Noah Weißhaupt picked up an injury against Gladbach, and as a consequence, he will miss Saturday's contest. Kevin Schade and Yannik Keitel are also both unavailable for the visitors, while Nils Petersen is a doubt.